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Fox can ride reality shows through strike

Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) has met a problem he can't solve - the writers' strike.

Fox, which carries Sutherland's series, "24," announced late Wednesday that the upcoming season of the show that combats terrorism has been at least temporarily postponed in order to assure nonstop action once it begins.

However, Fox seems more prepared than any broadcast network to deal with a possible long-term strike.

First of all, its annual megahit, "American Idol," is a reality show that isn't affected by the strike. It is set to premiere with a two-night, four-hour premiere on Jan. 15 and 16. Fox also announced three other reality shows, "The Moment of Truth" (premieres 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23); "When Women Rule the World" (8 p.m. Monday, March 3); and the return of "Hell's Kitchen" (April 1).

Fox also has several other returning reality shows ready with new episodes: "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" "COPS" and "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back."

The network also announced premiere dates for five new scripted shows, some of which were planned for midseason and some of which were delayed because of production issues.

The Jan. 13 and 14 premiere of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," was previously announced. Described as "a reinvention of the film franchise," it is tentatively scheduled to receive the "24" slot of 9 p.m. Monday until March 10, when "House" reruns take over.

"New Amsterdam," the series about a New York homicide detective who is immortal, was originally planned for the fall, but Fox pulled it for midseason after it received some negative notices from critics in July. The series, which co-stars University at Buffalo professor Stephen Henderson, now will premiere at 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. "Canterbury's Law," the series in which former "ER" star Julianna Margulies plays a defense lawyer, was planned for midseason before she announced she was pregnant. It will premiere 9 p.m. Friday, April 11, after "New Amsterdam" originals apparently end.

"Unhitched," a new six-week dating comedy from the outrageous Farrelly brothers, will premiere at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, March 2.

"The Return of Jezebel James," a new comedy about very different sisters from the creators of "Gilmore Girls," premieres at 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 7.

In addition, Fox plans to return original episodes of "Prison Break" - which finishes its fall run on Monday - from 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14, through March 3.

It also is moving three shows to new time slots. "Bones" moves from Tuesdays to 8 p.m. Fridays on Jan. 4 and stays there until March 7, when " 'Til Death" moves to 8 p.m. Friday. "Back to You" moves back an hour to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 12. Fox said there will be a mix of original and repeat episodes for the above shows but didn't say what the mix would be.

Fox plans to strategically run encores of "House" - which will continue to air at 9 p.m. Tuesday after "Idol" - on Mondays and Fridays when it needs the popular medical mystery series. An original episode of "House" starring Mira Sorvino will air after the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

The other broadcast networks are expected to follow shortly by announcing their strike plans, undoubtedly envious of Fox's strategy.

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